How Did Life Start?

How did life begin, this is the biggest questions about our existence. A new study combines biological and cosmological models. Professor Tomonori Totani from the Department of Astronomy looked at how life’s building blocks could spontaneously form in the universe — a process known as abiogenesis.

How did life start

If there is anything in this universe that is certain, is that life exist. Like everything, it must have some beginning, some initial point. 

As the only life we know of is based on Earth, studies on life’s origins are limited to the specific conditions we find here. Therefore, most research in this area looks at the most basic components common to all known living things: ribonucleic acid, or RNA. This is a far simpler and more essential molecule than the more famous deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA, that defines how we are put together. But RNA is still orders of magnitude more complex than the kinds of chemicals one tends to find floating around in space or stuck to the face of a lifeless planet.

But Totani said, “There is more to the universe than the observable. In contemporary cosmology, it is agreed the universe underwent a period of rapid inflation producing a vast region of expansion beyond the horizon of what we can directly observe. Factoring this greater volume into models of abiogenesis hugely increases the chances of life occurring.

Indeed, the observable universe contains about 10 sextillions (1022) stars. Statistically speaking, the matter in such a volume should only be able to produce RNA of about 20 nucleotides. But it’s calculated that thanks to rapid inflation, the universe may contain more than 1 googol (10100) stars, and if this is the case then more complex, life-sustaining RNA structures are more than just probable, they’re practically inevitable.

“Like many in this field of research, I am driven by curiosity and by big questions,” said Totani. “Combining my recent investigation into RNA chemistry with my long history of cosmology leads me to realize there is a plausible way the universe must have gone from an abiotic (lifeless) state to abiotic one. It’s an exciting thought and I hope research can build on this to uncover the origins of life.”

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